Humans don’t do Logic, our brains aren’t wired that way.
The human brain does lots of amazing things, but Logic really isn’t one of them. In order to get something approaching Logic, first you need to search through the whole child population and sift out the likeliest candidates, then train and cull them rigorously for many years. Then, keep what’s left in an academic bubble, while you feed them problems to work on. And finally, rigorously peer review everything that they produce, in multiple times and ways, in order to find if there is still some way they have managed to screw up the process.
In theory, Logic is as straight forward as things get. 1+1=2. Ta-Daa.
What could be easier? But it’s not easy is it. How many of us excelled at maths? How many of the people you know who did excel at maths, were kind of a little weird?
Interestingly; academia, the scientific method, maths, physics, engineering, even philosophy… are all versions (or extensions) of Logic. First came “(big P)Philosophy” back with the ancient Greeks, they had the first recognised School of Philosophy. What they were looking for was “Truth”. As things evolved, that school broke apart into several other disciplines as the core of the search for truth had some specific practical implications. Logic: as applied to Numbers yields Maths. Logic: as applied to Alchemy yields Chemistry. Etc, etc.
Philosophy reduced and shorn of its sub categories became rather anal and navel gazing – and yet it also returned to its core as well – what is the meaning and nature of Truth? How do you Know something is True? Because you apply logic, and test it. Simple.
When it is done to the physical world with engineering it yields wonders. Craft weighing hundreds of tons that soar through the sky. Buildings hundreds of stories high. Bridges eight lanes wide spaning miles carrying thousands of vehicles at one time. Men landed on the moon. Nuclear power and weapons. Telephones you can carry in your pocket that can make instant contact worldwide. It is stupendous and almost beyond belief. Logic works. And as long as everyone sticks strictly to the rules, all our technical wonders continue to work.
But interestingly, the trick isn’t about following the rules (we can train the Upright-Monkeys to follow the rules), the trick is developing the rules in the first place. The secrets of the universe aren’t really that secret. They are sitting there staring us in the face mostly. The problem is our ability to recognise what we are looking at. If you were designing intelligence, you wouldn’t do it the way we are put together. Humans are a result of an accretion process. Various systems that worked at one time or another layered onto another, pretty much at random. If it worked (more or less) then fine. If not they expired. Evolution. To suggest that it is all a beautifully integrated, planned creation is a failure of logic at it best. Beautifully human you might say.
Lets return to maths for a moment. 1+1=2. Most of us can figure that without difficulty. As the numbers get bigger we can struggle, but the basic principle stays the same and we can nut it out eventually. 2772561+3468255= what?
6540716 as it happens. (Or does it? Check my addition)
Even subtraction, multiplication and division are generally within our competence – with enough time and effort invested. But: Area of a Circle = Pi x R squared… is beyond the vast majority of people. And not only just to be able to calculate the rule. But to comprehend why that works, to be able to prove it, to understand the relationship between the various elements, and to figure it from scratch. That is such a freakishly abnormal quality and ability that the people who can do it get theorems named after them and are remembered throughout history. Pythagoras is an example: A2 + B2 = C2 (care to explain why that works?). Archimedes is another. Great minds, but definitely not normal either.
The problem is, those are the easy ones, it just gets massively more complicated from there. And that’s just Maths. Now try applying logic to those parts of the human condition that resist it. This does throw up some rather interesting issues though. Why do we resist it?
There are two immediately obvious answers to that. One is that our brains just aren’t basically wired that way. The other is that we don’t want to be logical.
Getting the wired argument out of the way first. Our brains are not binary computers, they don’t work with zero’s and ones, on or off, yes or no. The cells of our brain have myriads of connections to each other and computes a myriad of possible alternatives. That has advantages and disadvantages. It means you can imagine something that doesn’t yet exist, you can perceive things from different perspectives, and we can make connections when there is only partial, or incomplete information. On the negative side – we can make connections when there is only partial or incomplete information. We can come to conclusions based on completely unrelated facts – and be convinced we are correct. The whole cause and effect thing can be so spectacularly screwed up it can beggar believe to an objective observer. A+B+C= …Z. Ummm… NO. But best of luck trying to explain that to a true believer. In their head are all the “Facts” necessary to reach their conclusion. The fact the Z does not =A+B+C, provable by a process of logic, only means your process is wrong, not their thinking and conclusion… I won’t even bother going into demonstrating the many, many ways that type of thinking happens and is demonstrated daily.
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of all this though, is how we choose not to apply logic. Because it suits us not to. There are whole industries of human enterprise that would fall over if logic was a fundamental requirement, so it is in the interests of a lot of people that it never is. Organised, institutionalised religions do not fare well with logic. Nether do a lot of financial situations. But most significantly, the essence of Politics, is the art of obfuscating logic.
The whole basis of public relations, propaganda, factionalism, two party political systems, lawyers, spin, strawman arguments, marketing… is to deliberately create anti-logic. To create something that can sound logical, but is deliberately not: A+B+C=Z. In fact often the smartest minds on the planet are dedicated to pulling this type of wool over our eyes. For the pure and simple reason that it is very profitable. And they can. And most people are incapable of figuring the difference between bullshit and truth; between the logical and illogical. How can you fight what you cannot even see?
Unfortunately if that was all there was to it, the problem might be solvable – show someone the truth and the light, and they are thereafter inoculated against that untruth. But the problem goes much deeper. We also believe what we want to believe. As far back as the beginning of the Bible, it has been recognised that there is very little to be done to help those who will not see. So we see what we want to see, and politicians have continued to sell us the lies we want to believe in.
Realistically it is not a redeemable situation, we are the way we are. Researchers investigating the human process of making decisions reached some enlightening and disturbing conclusions. They found that when presented with a choice between two options, in order to make a decision, we intrinsically needed to have an emotional attachment to one of the options or outcomes. Without any emotional connection we become unable to decide. In other words, we don’t care about logic, we care about what we want, and that is the only consideration involved. Our thinking brains are only a rudimentary and supplementary adjunct to our emotional minds. Frankly, we’re not that bright. The fact that Science has managed to accelerate so rapidly over the last hundred years or so, only demonstrates what would be possible if we could think clearly. Instead, humanity has spent thousands of years in ignorance, and believing in nonsense.
Until and unless we could fundamentally remake human physiology, we will continue to be illogical. We will be wrong about most of the things we believe, and the conclusions we reach. Because we want to be, and because too often we can get away with it…
Until we can’t.
The problem isn’t that there are no solutions to our problems.
The problem is – we can’t see them, and we don’t want to see them. They would conflict with the conclusions we have already reached in out minds.
Real solutions would require that we change our mind: something else we are not good at.